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Little Rhode Island sues Big Oil over Climate Change

Little Rhode Island sues Big Oil over Climate Change

State’s manufacturers are angered by complaint “designed to enrich trial lawyers and grab headlines for politicians.”

Recently, I reported that that U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California tossed out the lawsuits that the cities of Oakland and San Francisco filed last fall against six fossil fuel giants. The two cities were seeking to hold the oil companies liable for the cost of infrastructure upgrades and remediation expected as they deal with effects of rising sea levels.

Undaunted, the state of Rhode Island has now filed a lawsuit against Big Oil.

Rhode Island’s attorney general sued a dozen oil and natural gas companies and their affiliates Monday in state court, accusing them of causing climate change and not sufficiently mitigating its effects.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (D) said Rhode Island is uniquely harmed by global warming, with its more than 400 miles of shoreline, fishing industry, marine economy and other factors.

“Rhode Island is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate changes that is now on our doorstep with sea level rise and an increase in severe weather patterns, as seen by the extensive damage caused by storms in the past several years, including Super Storm Sandy and the floods of 2010,” Kilmartin said in a statement.

Kilmartin is going big with this case, expanding the list of defendants beyond those in the California cases.

Kilmartin is adding even more defendants than those named already in lawsuits in California, Washington, New York and Colorado. He and attorneys at Sher Edling aren’t just blaming the original five companies but also Motiva Enterprises, Citgo, Marathon Oil, Speedway, Hess Corp., Lukoil Pan Americas and Getty Petroleum Marketing.

The lawsuit asserts said that the 21 companies named also violated the state’s Environmental Rights Act by polluting and destroying natural resources in Rhode Island and is requesting unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as orders requiring the companies to pay abatement costs and to disgorge profits.

Manufacturers who do business in the state are unhappy with the move.

Explained Lindsey de la Torre, executive director of the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP): “Lawsuits targeting manufacturers do nothing to address climate change, and as history has demonstrated, these lawsuits stand little chance in the courtroom.

…She continued: “It’s time for politicians and trial lawyers to put an end to this frivolous litigation. Taxpayer resources should not be used for baseless lawsuits that are designed to enrich trial lawyers and grab headlines for politicians. This abuse of our legal system does nothing to advance meaningful solutions, which manufacturers are focused on every day.”

Hopefully, Big Oil’s team of lawyers are as savvy about real climate science in the Rhode Island case as they were in California. For example, they can cite a new study showing that early life, without the aid of cars or industry, changed the global climate.

…Trying to understand what the Earth was like during the Palaeozoic era is not as difficult as it once was, thanks to the advent of computer modeling. After plugging in known data and running several simulations, the team found that the scenario which best fit Earth’s geological and climatic records was the one in which early ocean burrowing animals did indeed cause a significant change on the sediment geochemistry in Earth’s oceans around this time, “which then results in a large shift in climate,” says Mills.

I also wish that a fair and rational judge oversees this case, too. One of the new Trump appointments would be ideal.

Fossil fuels are a significant source of our nation’s prosperity, and carbon dioxide is essential for life. The #FakeScience of Climate Change should not be a basis for wealth redistribution.

[Featured image via Wikimedia Commons]


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“Recently, I reported that that U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California tossed out the lawsuits that the cities of Oakland and San Francisco filed last fall against six fossil fuel giants…

Undaunted, the state of Rhode Island has now filed a lawsuit against Big Oil.”

Golly. It’s like “Law of the land. The courts have ruled! Law of the land!” only applies to policies and causes with which leftists agree.

But that’s just crazy talk…

    Not only different plaintiff, which would be sufficient to make nonsense of your argument, but different jurisdiction, different law, and thus different cause of action. The Rhode Island courts have not ruled. No court has ever ruled on whether these defendants have violated RI law.

      V.Lombardi in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 6:44 am

      It’s an obvious power play for money and attention. The Left regards the oil companies as political opponents. They have run out of ways to take money from taxpayers, so they want it from corporations. CO2 levels were over 10 times higher in ancient times, during which warming periods and ice ages occurred.

      Tom Servo in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 8:58 am

      The California ruling was only a circuit court ruling, of course, and not legally precedential on other jurisdictions – BUT Judge Alsup included a long section, quite well reasoned, detailing why this kind of case could only be decided under Federal Law, not the State Law of any state. I won’t repeat it, it’s all in his opinion, but it included the fact that the issue is international, not just interstate, that most of the defendants are international, not just interstate, and of course the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, as re-emphasized in the decision handed down when Arizona tried to enforce immigration law on it’s on. When an area of law has been regulated by Congress and a Federal agency, and they have issued specific regulations meant to actively manage that sphere, then States have no legal authority to step in and take action on their own. No matter what their own State laws may say.

      Yes, yes. Blah, blah. Try decaff, milhouse.

      paracelsus in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      @ Milhouse

      No one has ever ruled on whether these plaintiffs are asking the court to violate common sense.

Should be thrown out with the complaints and their lawyers ordered to pay all court costs.

All the defendants ought immediately halt all sales and deliveries of ALL fossil fuel products to the state and all political subdivisions within the state. Force them to operate without the terrible polluting fossil fuels.

    CKYoung in reply to gospace. | July 4, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    That’s actually a great idea. Why sell them products they are suing you over? Liberalism is truly a mental disorder.

    Anchovy in reply to gospace. | July 4, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    You get thumbs up, pointy finger up, driver critique finger up, ring finger up, and pinky up.

    Cleetus in reply to gospace. | July 5, 2018 at 5:46 am

    But if oil companies refused to send gasoline and other related products to Rhode Island, then the state would sue for a multitude of reasons. Still, it would be interesting to watch the state bring suit in a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I’d like to see the real studies on the effects of these massive wind farms. Extracting energy out of the global weather system could be a factor or even cause of the “increase in severe weather patterns.” Who’s to say that the minute changes caused by wind farms aren’t amplified over time and distance, making hurricanes stronger, last longer, more numerous etc. Do we know if down wind effects could be massive deforestation, increased dry zones and the like? Chaos theory and the butterfly effect in action. Most studies I’ve seen deal with noise and dead birds. Is there accurate computer modeling? I’m not going to Google it, I’m pretty sure Google is a big cheerleader for wind power, if not an outright investor.

    Liz in reply to CKYoung. | July 4, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Wind farms can impact doppler radar.

    “Wind turbine clutter or interference that shows up on the base reflectivity and velocity images produced by the doppler radar can have several impacts including:
    – Thunderstorm or winter storm characteristics could be masked or misinterpreted, reducing warning effectiveness in the vicinity of, and downrange of the wind farm.
    – False signatures contaminating Doppler velocity data in the vicinity and downrange of the wind energy facility could reduce forecaster’s situational awareness, particularly during hazardous/severe weather events.
    – Data masking or contamination if thunderstorms develop over the wind farm may negatively impact warning effectiveness.
    – False precipitation estimates could negatively impact flash-flood warning effectiveness.”

    Milhouse in reply to CKYoung. | July 5, 2018 at 2:13 am

    I’ve actually seen a proposal for the West to build massive wind farms in West Africa in order to mitigate hurricanes in the Atlantic. The generated electricity would just be a windfall 🙂 which they could give to the Africans for free and count it as foreign aid.

      V.Lombardi in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 6:48 am

      That’s incredibly silly. Hurricanes develop in the ocean. The project you mention is merely another profiteering attempt by people incapable of setting up a legitimate operation without government funding. Perhaps you also support carbon capture from the atmosphere. Or painting all roofs white.

        Milhouse in reply to V.Lombardi. | July 5, 2018 at 9:18 am

        Wrong. Atlantic hurricanes normally start over the Sahara, travel to West Africa, then blow west over the ocean, where they pick up moisture. Whatever energy is extracted from them before they get to the ocean is energy they will not have for the rest of their courses.

          ronk in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 1:28 pm

          BS, you might want to consider really reading the article, hurricanes do not form over land, they can’t, no fuel, hurricanes require heat, and moisture to form, favorable winds current help. if you noticed hurricanes deteriorate quickly over land.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 1:46 pm

          Why don’t you read it? It says clearly that they form over the Sahara, which is where they get their heat, then pick up moisture over the ocean.

Little Johnny | July 4, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Another option would be to charge $20 per gallon “global warming defense” surcharge.

Post signs at each gas pump explaining that this fee is required for the oil companies to defend themselves from their politicians lawsuits. Of course these fees are subject to increase significantly the longer the lawsuits go on.

State’s manufacturers are angered by complaint “designed to enrich trial lawyers and grab headlines for politicians.”

Leslie, I think your lede says it all.

Kevin Smith | July 4, 2018 at 8:43 pm

The lawsuit will need to include the government of Rhode Island and it’s citizens since they clearly benefited from big oil unless none of them drive cars, fly on planes, buy food and other essentials which all are heavily dependent on big oil.

    Milhouse in reply to Kevin Smith. | July 5, 2018 at 2:14 am

    Um, the government of Rhode Island is already involved. Who’s the plaintiff, again?

      Tom Servo in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 9:24 am

      I believe he’s making the point that since they clearly benefited from the use of oil, the Government of Rhode Island by rights should be both plaintiff and defendant in this case. It highlights the nonsensical nature of this case.

      I looked up the stated causes of action – #1 is the common law complaint of Nuisance, identical to the stated cause of action in the California case. #2 is failure for liability to warn; for this to apply there must be legal proof that the defendants clearly and unambiguously knew of the danger. In the California case, the plaintiffs claimed they had documents “proving” this to the Court; when Alsup reviewed them, he publicly stated that they were little more than a bad joke and were simply reprints of information that had been publicly available to everyone for over 20 years now.

      Causes of Action 3 & 4 deal with negligent design and design defect – really? the oil didn’t burn? Oil is intended to be combusted and provide energy, as long as that happens there is no “design defect” – this is where these charges start to drop off into pure legal lunacy.

      Cause of action 5, failure to warn, a pointless rehash of Cause of action #2. #6, Trespass – nope, if State and Federal law allowed the use and transport of these goods, and if that movement was always voluntary, then “Trespass” as a cause of action is also idiotic.

      #7, “Impairment of Public Trust” – State AG Kilmartin just made that one up because he thought it looked good when he wrote it down.

      #8 – State Environmental Law – as stated above, Judge Alsup has provided a very good description of why, based in part on the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, questions like this have to be based on Federal Law, not State Law, and therefore this cause of action must be denied. The States have no jurisdiction on this topic.

        tphillip in reply to Tom Servo. | July 5, 2018 at 1:15 pm

        A stunning legal argument. I’m sure you’ve won cases on it alone.

        Tom Servo in reply to Tom Servo. | July 5, 2018 at 2:32 pm

        The Never Trumper actually quit licking his own asshole long enough to show his face! Amazing! Want me to humiliate your fake “lEgUll NolLeDgE” again just like I did last time??? Come on, show us your Brilliance! Make us laugh all over again!!!

        Halcyon Daze in reply to Tom Servo. | July 5, 2018 at 4:29 pm

        Complete bullshit reply, Rages. But it’s what we have come to expect from you.

The NAM must go on offense as Trump does. If they play only defense (i.e., “unhappy”), it will not turn out well.

Can’t they just raise the ‘Jurisdiction’ objection since this is obviously interstate commerce and get it transferred to a Federal courthouse where it will die a well-deserved death?

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to georgfelis. | July 4, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Federal jurisdiction and/or the lack thereof is conditional on whether it benefits the Left. That is American jurisprudence.

    Milhouse in reply to georgfelis. | July 5, 2018 at 2:16 am

    State law still applies unless it’s preempted by a federal law, which this is not.

      Tom Servo in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Actually, yes it is pre-empted by Federal Law, for the same reason that Arizona’s attempt to enforce Immigration Law was pre-empted by the Federal Government’s decisions on how to enforce it. Rhode Island is not allowed to interfere with interstate and international issues (such as supposed sea level rise) just like Arizona is not allowed to pass and enforce it’s won immigration laws. State Environmental laws only can be enforced if they are in complete accordance with Federal law.

      A bit of an obscure case that is applicable, Edgar vs MTE, 1982 – “A State statute is void to the extent that it actually conflicts with a valid Federal Statute” – in this case, the EPA’s authority to regulate this area, as granted to it by the Congress.

        Tom Servo in reply to Tom Servo. | July 5, 2018 at 9:49 am

        Remember in the Arizona Case, the Arizona State Government’s complaint was that the Federal Government wasn’t regulating immigration as intensely as Arizona wished they would, and that they weren’t even enforcing the laws they DID have effectively. Whatever you may think of the merits of that case, the Supreme Court’s answer was, You LOSE. When a conflict between a State and Federal Agency arises over who has authority over an interstate or international issue, the Federal Agency wins every time, and the State is pre-empted from any action in that sphere of law that may contradict Federal policy.

        That’s black letter law now.

        Milhouse in reply to Tom Servo. | July 5, 2018 at 11:55 am

        Not even close. The courts have held for over a century (though without any obvious source in the constitution itself — it’s a huge mistake to imagine that the constitution’s penumbras are a modern invention) that immigration is a matter solely reserved for Congress, so states may not legislate in that area at all.

        Whatever the alleged basis of these suits, it isn’t an area that’s been reserved exclusively to Congress, so whether it’s preempted depends on whether Congress has made a law it specifically intended to be a comprehensive national system that preempts all state and local regulations. If it didn’t explicitly express such an intention, then it’s up to the courts to determine whether it had one.

Return legal fire. ‘Return fire’ is the only thing fascists understand.

Easy way to stop this is to enbargo all oil to RHODE ISLAND. Until suit is stopped.

Trying to understand what the Earth was like during the Palaeozoic era is not as difficult as it once was, thanks to the advent of computer modeling.

Back in the stone knives and bearskins stage of the computer age, you could get anyone to believe absolutely anything if you told them that a computer was involved. As one of the characters said about an orbital calculation in Destination Moon, “I could be wrong, but the computer couldn’t.”

Nowadays you’d think we’d all know better, from personal experience. And we have all those great confidence-inducing computer predictions, such as the total disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Oopsies, didn’t happen. Alpine glaciers? Still there, no matter what Mr Computer said.

In this case, plaintiffs should be able to come up with some data.

Rhode Island is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate changes that is now on our doorstep with sea level rise

So, how much has the sea level increased during the last fiscal year, and what did it cost to repair the damage? If it’s that big a deal, they should be able to come up with some actual numbers. Once that’s pinned down, all they have to show is that it was somehow related to climate, rather than other geological phenomena (i.e., the water can go up … or the land can go down … and sometimes does), and that the climate is controlled by Evil Oil. But how far are they going to get if they can’t show that damage has actually been inflicted?

If only Big Oil could fully leave this Progressive Plantation and force them to use only renewable power RIGHT NOW!! This is just a environmental shakedown for money.

I also wish that a fair and rational judge oversees this case, too. One of the new Trump appointments would be ideal.

Um, since when does Trump get to appoint judges to Rhode Island courts? He’s not president of Rhode Island.

    MarkS in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 6:44 am

    He can try, can’t he?

      Tom Servo in reply to MarkS. | July 5, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Trump is appointing many federal judges. For many reasons, the least of which is that Rhode Island has no oil production of its own and thus every drop of oil used in Rhode Island is the result of interstate commerce, any one of the defendants can quite easily and successfully petition to remove this to a Federal Court.

        tphillip in reply to Tom Servo. | July 5, 2018 at 1:17 pm

        Is this how you argue now? Just whine and call the argument bullshit?

        One should heed their own advice

        Ragspierre in reply to Tom Servo. | July 5, 2018 at 5:11 pm

        I’ll start today’s lesson with the factual observation that you approach this from the wrong end of the stick.

        There is nowhere in Federal procedure any “removal” based on “interstate commerce”. It’s an idiot notion, apparently unique to you.

        “Removal on diversity of citizenship” is what you are ignorantly straining to bloviate about, and of course you don’t have a clue.

        This legal doctrine goes back to the days of the Articles Of Confederation, when a party often was discriminated against by a state court if they were an “alien” (a person from another state). One of many correctives included in our Constitution included a Federal judiciary that could provide a fair, neutral forum for civil law conflicts between citizens of “diverse” states.

        Jurisdiction is never taken from a state court on the grounds that a party business is in interstate commerce. That’s just some of your stupid nonsense.

        A Federal court only obtains jurisdiction on “removal” from a state court on diversity of citizenship grounds on a showing that the defendant lacks sufficient interests in that state for the state to exert jurisdiction over them under law.

        The law on diversity is quite well established and pretty clear, contrary to the other idiot (above) blowing out his ass on the topic. It has nothing whatsoever to do with your politics.

    Edward in reply to Milhouse. | July 5, 2018 at 10:08 am

    I decided to read down before posting this. You are correct that the story starts by pointing out that the case was brought in RI State Court. Guess the author forgot which court system by the end of the column.

Big Oil should close ALL GAS STATIONS in San Francisco, Oakland and Rhode Island. Let the people know , first hand, how more difficult life would be without gas for their Beamers !!

Grrr8 American | July 5, 2018 at 7:51 am

After having spent most of my life there, my wife and I escaped Rhode Island in 2009 (for the Southeast). This stunt illustrates one of the reasons why — that state is consistently ranked as one of the worst for business, and this just adds to that ledger. RI is one of the most Democrat states in the country, a mix of unicorn Progressives and folks still living in the FDR era that reflexively vote Democrat because (they’ve been brought up to believe) that the Dems are for the little guy. The middle class is leaving — what’s left are political hacks on government payrolls and welfare recipients (RI is known as a welfare magnet). My wife and I decided to watch the impending economic collapse from afar (already it’s very Atlas Shrugged-like — the roads are potholed and bridges structurally unsound).

    Mike-in-Mass in reply to Grrr8 American. | July 5, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Funny coincidence. I attended the Ancients & Horribles 4th of July parade yesterday in Glocester, RI. For those of you who don’t know, the parade has been on-going for 92 years and consists mostly of goofy parade floats that usually promote local businesses or causes and many that insult and mock politics. The same politicians that are being targeted are mixed between floats. Somehow a melee never develops, possibly because the dancing cop is also present.

    As the parade progresses, the politicians wave like they know you and drop leaflets in your lap with a big smile. I counted six different folks running for governor. One bearded gentleman was collecting signatures to appear on the ballot. His shtick was vague so I asked what was his platform. I accidentally laughed aloud when he said “I’m a Progressive Democrat working to find ways to raise revenue that doesn’t increase taxes or tolls.” I apologized and wished him luck and said he has a long uphill battle against the established party in Rhode Island. Somehow, none of them ever mention any ideas about reducing costs.

    My children disapproved of my behavior since they saw me laugh in someone’s face. Unsurprisingly though my elderly parents didn’t object.

If I hear “Super storm Sandy” one more time I will scream.

“Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the United States about 8 p.m. EDT Oct. 29, striking near Atlantic City, N.J., with winds of 80 mph. A full moon made high tides 20 percent higher than normal and amplified Sandy’s storm surge.”

Come on, people. At 80 miles per hour, Hurricane Sandy was a Category 1, not even close to a Cat 2. Based on the facts of the actual storm data, most of the destruction north of Atlantic City was caused by the storm surge at high tide. And they want to sue the oil companies for this?

I have a better suggestion. Let me paraphrase that prescient comedian Jackie Gleason:

“Sue the moon, Alice!”

Perhaps the oil companies, out of an abundance of caution, should stop selling gasoline and diesel in Rhode Island.

(Yes, I see it’s been said already, but as such, perhaps bears repeating)

    The economic ramifications of pulling out of a state are likely prohibitive, but Trump has recently stirred the pot by holding nations with bad policy to near reciprocal account, perhaps these companies can offset litigation costs by surcharging all sales to RI

Pulling out of the smallest state in the nation (land area) should be far easier than larger states. The impact may not be as problematic as the same action in states with far smaller populations but much larger travel distances (e.g. WY).

PersonofInterests | July 5, 2018 at 11:29 am

Anybody remember the Tobacco Litigations that ultimately resulted in the States being awarded huge court awards ostensibly to reimburse their Medicare for sick citizens who couldn’t read the warnings on the package and slammed those who didn’t want to be around them while smoking as being sissies? Remember how the States couldn’t wait to get their hands on the money; engaged Wall Street to package the judgement awards into financial insturments to be sold; and sell them so that the State could get that money before the Tobacco Companies earned income to pay the awards, all while these same states practically outlaws tobacco with punitive taxation and rules to eliminate public use of Tobacco? And once they got the money, how much ever actually went to reimburse the Medicare Fund that was the excuse for having sued the Tobacco Companies?

Enter this latest “Shakedown” Attempt to help State Government and their stupid politicians do what they always do: Pick the pockets of corporations and individuals to Piss away money for no good end other than to get themselves reelected and to employ their attorney brethren.

    Grrr8 American in reply to PersonofInterests. | July 5, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    Don’t forget Sheldon Whitehouse when he was RI AG. Gave a no-bid contract to a law firm that was involved (earlier) with the tobacco suits (Ness Motley or something like that). Basically the class action version of ambulance chasers. This time they tried to duplicate the tobacco model against paint manufacturers (lead); also on a public nuisance theory. If I recall correctly, that ultimately got thrown out of court. This private group of “lawyers” were allowed to sue under the auspices of the State / AG’s office, but were going to get what, 30% of the take?

    Later that firm donated a lot the Whitehouse’s campaigns, and once in the Senate he arranged a federal judgeship for one of the Motley fools.

    This shakedown stuff is just one of the examples of Rhode Island’s pervasive culture of corruption — RISDIC; CVS bag contracts; Buddy Cianci and Plunder Dome. And on and on. Yet the people there keep voting for the party of corruption (another reason we left RI in 2009 — there’s no hope for the “HOPE” state).

    Kilmartin probably thinks that he can someday also parlay this into the U.S. Senate. Following in the footsteps of Whitehouse and Jack Reed. (You know, the guy who, while in the General Assembly, voted to give state pensions to teachers union officials that didn’t even work for the state — and then tried to claim that he didn’t know what he was doing. The morons in Rhode Island decided that for this he deserved a promotion to the U.S. Senate.)

    Oh, and then there’s mob lawyer family Congressman Ciccilline.

    Folks, RI is a beautiful place to visit. But you never, ever want to locate a business there, nor have your taxable residence there. It is marinated in corruption, and the natives like it that way.

Big oil should notify the State of Rhode Island that they are developing plans to move all their operations out of the State should the lawsuit not be rejected but the courts.

If manmade global warming is true, then the residents of Rhode Island won’t need home heating oil in the winter, so those operations would be unnecessary.

On the downside, driving to Connecticut or Massachusetts to buy gas wouldn’t be economical or good for the environment.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | July 5, 2018 at 4:28 pm

Good luck with that Rhode Island Reds-Chickens!

harleycowboy | July 6, 2018 at 8:33 am

Let the state sue. If the companies lose just stop selling inside the state. Claim it’s for the state’s own good and Mother Gia. If the state sues to force the companies to sell inside the state refer the state back to the original suit.